Training Arnis in Luneta Park

I was thinking about the classic park in Manila. “Rizal Park, also known as Luneta Park or simply Luneta, is a historical urban park in the Philippines. Formerly known as Bagumbayan in the era of colonialism under the Spaniards.”

For many a decade if you trained in Manila, the Philippines, a must go-to place is this park. Many, many famous people have taught and gathered here. And when we were in Manila, we were either at the Presas school, this park or at the college where Ernesto taught Arnis at those times.

It did bother Ernesto a bit at times at the park, because various FMA grandmasters would set up folding chairs and watch us. He would whisper, “You see dese guys? Dey are grandmasters. Dey are spying on me.”

This above photo is me and Shelley. Early 90s. There were only like 6 of us there, so it was pretty intense. Under his scrutiny all the time. We would go about 4 hours in the morning and about 3 1/2 hours in, there would be a break. Ernesto would say, “Take a break, then…examination time.”

This photo –  Since we were so few, we also had his black belts as partners too, who were very helpful too. With Renato “Boks” Centro.

“Examination time?” we’d say in the beginning days. He was always “testing” us, but this would be a more real test for the last part of 3-4 hours. So…there was no break. We would walk off behind some trees or bushes and work through those ten minutes to hurry-review what we did. Then some water.

“Come on, COME ON!”
“Speed motion!” 
…observation “test.

Then lunch. Then another 4 hours. 6 days on. 1 day off pace.

That top  photo again. Me, Shelley Millspaugh and the big man GM watching us.  Captain Rene, a Honduran fighter pilot is behind us. Shelley Millspaugh added: “Great memories. That first camp was as intense as you could’ve made it. I haven’t had that type of intensity since. GGM was the Energizer bunny. Never stops.”


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Shooting Criminals! Shooting the 1,247,321!

Important phrases in gun fighting statistics.

“One In…”
“No One Has…”
“At Very Least…”
and … “Why Bother…”

In previous posts we discussed statistics. We all know how polls and stat studies work or don’t work. Unless you like the results then you don’t like the poll or study. We know what statistics officially mean, their goal – “the practice or science of collecting and analyzing numerical data in large quantities, especially for the purpose of inferring proportions in a whole from those in a representative sample.”
We slice and dice these numbers into training doctrine, all in effort to work on what counts and prioritize training time. But what if all those numbers are incorrect and incomplete? In the United States, the FBI Uniformed Crime Reports, is such a go-to source for US statistics reports. The FBI also collects info on police officers shot and killed, which civilians read and willfully or innocently extrapolate over to citizen, self defense, training ideas. The FBI is not just a source for the USA, but folks in other countries read and use the gun numbers also. But, the FBI wants to warn us on the front page, and in sort of the small print…

“Figures used in this Report were submitted voluntarily by law enforcement agencies throughout the country. Individuals using these tabulations are cautioned against drawing conclusions by making direct comparisons between cities. Comparisons lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents. Valid assessments are possible only with careful study and analysis of the range of unique conditions affecting each local law enforcement jurisdiction. It is important to remember that crime is a social problem and, therefore, a concern of the entire community. In addition, the efforts of law enforcement are limited to factors within its control. The data user is, therefore, cautioned against comparing statistical data of individual agencies.”

Yikes! A closer examination details more data collection oddities and exclusions, here are but two:

*Methodology: Data from law enforcement agencies whose resident population falls below 100,000 are published in this table for 2 consecutive years. If the population remains below 100,000 after 2 years, the agency’s data are no longer published in this table.

* Methodology: When the FBI determines that an agency’s data collection methodology does not comply with the national UCR Program’s guidelines, the figure(s) for that agency’s offense(s) is not included in the table and the discrepancy is explained in a footnote.

I recall how some of my old agencies and agencies I knew of, that did and did not send in data through the decades. I even a recall a small Texas city let a city librarian down the hall from the police department, classify crimes for dispatch to the FBI. She had no real idea what crime was what crime.

Yet, “The numbers don’t lie!” they tell us. But how good are those numbers anyway? And from these numbers, comes the slicing and the dicing we all love to hear about, and play with this or that, game conclusions. With these numbers we try to relax, or to scare. We try to define who we might be shooting someday, why we might need a gun or knife within reach, and the type of training we need.

So, we’ll start off with the “one in___” numbers game.
– One if four households are victimized by crime
– One in four women and one in seven men have been victims of severe physical violence
– One in five college women have been verbally abused by a partner.
– One in eight men and one in 11 women will die from cancer
– One in 315 has a chance of death from gun violence.
– One in this…
– One in that…
– One in the other…
– The “one in” game.

Or how about, the other, “no one has” numbers game. This slice and dice exists too, and is a flip side of the previous.
– No one has reloaded in a civilian shooting.
– No one has reloaded in a police shooting.
– No one grapples/fights with a criminal in shooting incidents.
– No one uses their gun sites within _____ feet.
– No one sees, no hear hears.
– No one this…
– No one that…
– No one the other…
– The “no one” game.

We are left with best collected info, or the “at very least,” we know that…” numbers game

* “At least one in ten have…”

The Big Picture. I have always believed and looked for the big picture in studies. The collected very least info, is rarely compared to the biggest related number. The big picture number is almost always ignored in studies. Usually the ignorance comes from the fact that “only 2,000 people” were studied, 500 “likely” people were asked. 5,000 people were “tested.”  The small people-numbers are a little embarrassing in most research because so few were involved. So you see a lot of “percentage talk.” “25% of people have less back pain from…” We are all supposed to then magnify those percentages over to…say…the 230 million US citizens? Really? The country tick bite problem directly relates to 38% of Bostonians?

What’s a big number. What is the biggest picture number available that relates to this crime subject? What do I mean? An example, using 2017 as a US snapshot.

2017 Uniformed Crime Reports total crime:
  * 1,247,321 violent crimes (at very least).
  * 7,694,086 property crimes (at very least).

Now we’ll add in a few big numbers for the big picture.

2017 US population – 230 million (big picture)
2017 US guns – 300 million guns of all types and ages “out there” 
2017 estimated UCR total crime:
  * 1,247,321 violent crimes.
  * 7,694,086 property crimes

The population is estimated. The gun amount is estimated. The FBI crime stats are “at very least,” and flawed as we mentioned. But they and we are left with the only numbers we have. At… very… least.
At very least that year we had 8,941,407 total crimes. Alone that is frightening for many. But within 230 million people as a big picture number? Oh and did I, need I mention, that the US of A is 3,531,905 square miles. The crime number in the big world of statistics is not so bad a danger number, in the big picture of people and space. There is more to the “mileage.” Crime is rampant in certain areas that skews perception. Numbers runners say that if we subtract the gun crime in places like parts of Chicago, St. Louis or Baltimore, we start looking like Japan. “Mileage” counts. “Location, location, location!” as business schools yell.

Shooting Criminals as in Shooting the 1,247,321
I am oddly fascinated by that violent crime number each year. In 2017 for example, 1,247,321 violent crimes. At very least that many, as they say.  There were an estimated 383  violent crimes per 100,000 people.  That is not 383  violent crimes per 100,000 people living in say…Utah! It is way less in Utah. Or, your home city. That’s a  “per”  (another great stat term) country wide spread. The FBI, which classifies murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault as violent crimes. How many did we, or rather, the FBI miss though? A few more? Quarter more? Half? And, what does this mean in term of shooting criminals in the acts of crimes?

We the people, are only supposed to shoot at violent criminals. Imminently violent criminals. And in the act. That number is about the acts,  but how many criminals does it to take to total up to 1,247,321 felonies? Surely not 1,247,321 individual criminals doing individual crimes. No, as history, news, prison, parole and probation studies tell us, at very least, that one criminal will commit several crimes. So, if we shoot one violent criminal, (or imprison one) we usually, often interrupt multiple future crimes. (There is a new boom of prison statistics out in 2019 by the way. See attached chart. Blow this up and look it over.)In the legal “gun world,” guns can be drawn to interrupt imminent violent crimes against you and someone else. So in a country with 230 million people, and some 300 million guns, the populace may theoretically, “legally’ pull/use a gun just about a million and a quarter times in 2017?

Gun threats alone can work and will go statistically unnoticed. Pulled guns alone have scared away both intended violent criminals and property criminals in numbers undocumented. Yes, I know that some US states have an old law or two that you can use deadly force to protect your property with a gun. There will always be some “backwoodsman” stepping up to remind us of this. Sounds nice, but misleading because, try to shoot someone stealing your lawn mower or breaking into your car? See how that works out for you. Try that in 21st Century. Any modern gun instructor with half a brain will warn you against doing that.

So, 1,247,321 violent crimes. Compared to 230 million people. There is a “one-in…” figure in here somewhere. You can do the math. There appears to be a small chance you will use your gun in the US. This is similar to US law enforcement numbers too. I bring this up because the next phase of the “one in,” stat and the “no one” stat discussion, is the follow-up, “why bother” crowd. They ask, “Well, if this is so unlikely, why bother do this,” do that, or do the other?

The “Why Bother” Crowd
After looking at the “One In” numbers and “No One” numbers, people may then start asking “why bother?” If a study of 2,000 people says brushing your teeth three times a day is no better than 2 times, why bother with the third brushing?” If walking for 20 minutes, 3 times a week is as good as running 3 times, why bother running? And so on.
I think that these small number studies, extrapolated upon us into assumed millions, create a lot of thoughtless hypocrisies. We carry a gun to live longer, but still smoke cigarettes. We buckle ourselves in cars and then ride motorcycles.  We target-shoot like mad to shoot the 1,247, 321 and survive, and we eat like hell. The list of inconsistencies is long. The mental gymnastics of a totally, logical life can deliver a migraine. I think it’s human nature not to handle all the small hypocrisies we carry, or even just realize them. Perhaps a Tibetan monk has it all figured out, rids himself of everything and then he just sits in a corner contemplating his navel?
With guns, the “why bother” crowd then might ask, “Why bother carrying? I mean, there’s such a small chance I’ll need one. And, I don’t live in Baltimore. My chances are even less.”

It appears many people feel this way. The Center for Crime Prevention says that there are between 15.6 million and 16.3 million concealed carry licences and more and more states are going to no-permit-needed, constitutional carry so they are uncountable. The Dailey Signal  reports that, “Studies suggest, however, that only a fraction of Americans who conceal carry actually do so on a routine basis. A recent study of 2015 survey data estimated that 9 million Americans carry at least once a month, while only 3 million do every day—about 1.2 percent of the American adult population.” This is but one study, and the results of others say about the same thing. So we have…at very least, how many actual carriers out there at any given time? They may be asking themselves, “Why bother carrying?” “Always carry?” “Sometimes carry?” “Ever carry at all?”

So what do you think? Why do you bother? If I tell you the base numbers can be wrong and off. If there are numerous other equations with bad numbers to insert in the slice-and-dice conclusions, what do you think about carrying a gun? The odds of shooting the 1,247,321? Are you basing training doctrine on incomplete and skewed, sliced-and-diced information?

I am a skeptic. I am such a skeptic, I am skeptical of my skepticism. So, I wanted to know what makes a good study? Science Based Life suggests this list:

1. Was the study large enough to pass statistical muster?
2. Was it designed well?
3. Did it last long enough?
4. Were there any other possible explanations for the conclusions of       the study or reasons to doubt the findings?
5. Do the conclusions fit with other scientific evidence? If not, why?
6. Do you have the full picture?
7. Have the findings been checked by other experts?
8. What are the implications of the research? Any potential problems or applications?

And I must also resort back to the well of the “who, what, where, when, how and why” questions. It’s a deep well and the model keeps coming back up.

Who collects these numbers? Who do they ask, poll and test?
What is the bias behind the number collection? The number collectors?
Where are these numbers collected from?
When are they collected? After some horrible gun event? Absent such an event?
How are they collected?
Why are they collected. Why do people volunteer to be collectible?

For me, beyond the flaky stats, my bottom line is I have to look at calculating/customizing my life, or any person’s lifestyle. Personalize. With guns, you get a concealed carry license or carry a gun for your lifestyle. Using the best local intelligence information, combined with using the generic risk factors, and the…very least concepts of statistics…

In Summary
My real message here in this essay? The big numbers are off and incomplete, so do the best you can to customize. And think about these things. Every gun person should think about them. Be able to articulate about them. We are all not a simple statistic. Bad stuff happens everyday. Bad stuff happens to people, happens to somebody, and it can happen to you. There’s another classic line around forever. “When you need a gun, you REALLY need a gun.”
Perhaps a Tibetan monk has it all figured out, thinks about all this “one in,” “no one,” “at least” and “why bother,” and rids himself of everything and then he just sits in a corner contemplating his navel? But, then the damn Chinese soldiers come and…

When it happens to you?
Then it’s a “one in ONE” chance.
“No one”… else. “One per one.”
At “very least” – you!


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Fun with Buffalo Beards

I wonder…do people know why so many folks have big bison-buffalo beards today? What caused the more “recent” …beard fad? Craze? 
A burst of beards? I like to ask these origin questions once in a while. Like who created the Krav Maga craze? It was Darren Levine out of Los Angeles in the 1990s, and like… a million or two dollars in advertising. Many Krav people say, “Dar… whaa… who?” Best thank Darren, not Imi! They don’t know these things. Or, I ask, why do these dudes walk around with their pants half down on their butts. Prison, homosexual signal. Underwear, displaying fashion people say, “wait…what?”

So, on the beards, why are so many people running around these days with buffalo beards? A “burst of beards!” (Is that an official term of venery?) It was/is a unique run kicked off again from the post 9-11 special force guys in Afghanistan, From these early 2000s photos sent back to the USA. It was somewhat common knowledge back then that these guys had to communicate and work with local, long-bearded cats over there and it became beneficial, much to the chagrin of many clean-shaven, US Army traditionalists, for these guys to grow insane beards. Pictures just like this one here.

“Back in the day,” in the ol’ Army, one had to acquire a “profile” to have a beard, as in a medical profile. Your facial skin was so screwed up you couldn’t shave. It seems like a few folks had such profiles, to the consternation of the “head shed.” (Head Shed being a nickname for “command,” “HQ” thee…officers in charge, etc. Could also be the NCOs too! The…sergeants.) We were jealous of these profilers. We wanted fuzz too! Just because it was outlawed. But, the profilers  couldn’t grow complete full buffalo beards, so they had, what would later be recognized as the Miami Vice/ Don Johnson look. These fuzzy profilers especially ticked off the drill sergeants in Basic Training.

Formation scene – Drill Sgt. in front of profiler:
“Private Ass-face! Your face looks like a hairy ass!”
“I have a profiling problem, Drill Sergeant.”
“I have never seen a problem that couldn’t be solved with a hand grenade!” (A magnificent line I used the rest of my life, by the way.)

And by the way, all would agree if you were alive and cognizant in the 1980s, that Don Johnson of the Miami Vice TV show, started the whole close-shave, fuzz-beard craze of those times. Further evidence that beard fads exist. But I digress.

Still, in Afghanistan, in the 2000s, special guys had beards. Minus any medical profiles. Forward operating base guys had beards too (who could shave sitting on rock ledge watching idiots test-probing and outflanking you all day and night?)

Then, seeing these action-guy photos, the wannabes, state-siders, started growing thick, long beards too. Seriously, we saw it happen.

  • Before this war era, a normal ratio of people walked the Earth with normal beards. Usually trimmed. Some were engulfed in buffalo beards we’d see, yes. But not that many at all. Cuz it was outlander-weird! Homeless-looking.
  • Before this war era, a normal ratio of “normal” beards appeared at shooting courses and gun ranges. Of those,  some, rarely, were buffalo-bearded. Rare, cuz it was outlander-weird. Homeless-looking.
  • Before this war era, there were no fun, culty, web pages dedicated to the cares and concerns of giant, buffalo beards.

Thus, the new beard craze.  Hairy-assed beards begot hairy – Rip Van Winkle – hairy-assed beards. This usually just makes most people just look way older.

     Then, these disgusting, lumberjack, flanneled, hipsters started growing pretty-boy, beard resemblances. Splinters began.

As a result, origins-lost and the splinter factor…
– You may have a buffalo beard from some other splintered, down-line reason. You may have a billy goat beard? You may have a lesser beard but still inspired by these origins.
– You may also wear yer drawers outside yer pants for some other splintered, down-line reason, other then getting laid in Cell Block 13.
– You may also have “Krav Maga” tattooed on your forearm for some other splintered, down-line reason other than Darren’s millions.

Another old school nickname for a thick beard is a “crumb-catcher.” I for one, who can’t get the smell of a cheeseburger out of my car, would not want to eat while sporting any beard inhibiting my eating and hiding my mouth. I really, really  don’t care what you do, but it’s fun sometimes too look at the recent origins of things and see how fads get started and what becomes of them.

Fads. I still have my pet rock. But, I had one before they started selling them, though. So…you know, I’m cool. Hey, the guy who invented the pet rock had quite a beard too. I guess I will have to settle for a Chia pet to support the cause. There’s an ironic theme in here somewhere, that I am unable to grasp…


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  • To soldiers, it’s a way to take prisoners and kill the enemy.
  • To police, it’s pretty much a no-no.
  • To martial people and martial artists it’s a tap-out, win-win.
  • To self defense people it’s several easy escape tricks and quickly boring.
  • To many martial artists, doing a hand choke is crazy and dumb  because there are so many easy escapes. To many martialists, they then ignore doing and teaching these simple choke/strangle escapes. Or eventually then…forget them.

What I want to write about here today is the differences between chokes and strangles. And, citizen and-or self defense concerns about strangulation with a special emphasis on domestic violence. To real people in real everyday world, strangulation is a criminal assault with so many ramifications, but the category includes a terrible amount of domestic disturbances violence (assault and murder) on women.

I write this from my years of experiences responding to about a ton of domestics, working murders, attempted murders, aggravated assaults and simpler assaults. I also write this from attended police profiling courses and working in martial arts since the 1970s. And, I also write this from continuing to research these topics, such as with the recent, interesting book No Visible Bruises. My point here will be, that self defense and martial arts training, even cop intervention fail big time to help in the big strangle picture of domestic abuse.

As an aside, probably the worst  domestic case I had was a triple homicide. A man shot his wife and two kids, tried to shoot the third kid but the young girl escaped to a neighboring apartment complex. The neighbor called the police as he threw the mom and kids down a well. We arrived, talked to the surviving daughter, then chased and caught the guy on the run in a few hours. I “befriended” him, got him to confess. He told me about the well and where he hid the gun, etc. I helped haul the bodies put of the well later. He eventually got a death sentence. No choking involved to my knowledge, it’s just the worst domestic case I ever had. Just one domestic case with the biggest toll.

I’ve worked a number of strangulation cases and I wish we had the science, stats and resources, help groups and MONEY that are around today. Years ago another detective, Jeff Waro and I were working a hitman and organized crime cases and we were suddenly assigned an unrelated murder (oh, thanks admin!). A woman was strangled by a wire hanger in her apartment. She was not raped. We dropped everything to work on this case, looking for a motive. We quickly uncovered that this dead, college girl was a mistress. She was strangled by her boyfriend. The boyfriend was married. He and his wife just had a baby. THAT day of the murder! With this newborn, we guessed he couldn’t have his mistress around? We got enough evidence for a warrant and hunted down the hospital of the child birth in Dallas. Wawro and I arrested the strangler at the nursery, in the very room with the wife and new baby. With every act of violence, simple or complicated, there’s a trauma and a drama.  Each one is a sad story.

Choke versus Strangle. A few years back after I retired, I worked to keep my Texas commission and had to attend 24 hours a year of certified state training. One year I collected 2 of those hours by attending a new-laws, legal-update course. That year Texas had changed the laws on choking/strangulation. If a suspect choked the windpipe the charge was higher than just choking the bloodlines. Obviously choking/crushing the windpipe is more serious, but this was legal news to me. I remember thinking to myself back then, “Man! There must be a lot of choking going on if the State decided to make these distinctions.” And I assumed it was another step on the long war on domestic violence. Other states were making the same changes, too. And yes, it was based on domestic murders and assaults. Hey, did you know that there is a “Strangulation Institute?” Yeah. That’s how bad things  have gotten.

Is the word “strangle” or “strangulation” synonymous with the word “choke?” At some primitive, semantic level perhaps, yes, but it seems to mean more…when its your throat. Right away people think a strangle is a “hands on throat” attack. Way back when I was in the army, the US Army basic training called the throat attack a strangle. You were killing the enemy. Then months later, in the military police academy they called it a choke. Choke sounds…better, doesn’t it? More “in policy.” The choke was to temporarily incapacitate a suspect, not kill a Viet Cong. And strangulation is usually associated with death. I realize these are English language terms and other countries have or may not have such split, nuanced meanings for act of squeezing the throat.

To a common person and to some experts, a hand squeeze strangulation is thought be an act of hate, or anger.  Someone wants to “squeeze the life out of you.” The victim could be someone the attacker knows, or a stranger. Hating a stranger? The victim-stranger might just be a recipient of a so-called “projection.” By that I mean the victim might act or resemble in some way, someone the attacker hates, or wants a violent release upon. Sudden or planned. Or, in some of the murder and serial murderer cases, a strangulation is an after-the-fact, cover-up to kill and remove the body after, say, a sex crime.

But we all know that the neck squeeze can also come from the arms and tools. You often here the legal version term – ligature. (A chest squeeze might seem like choking to some, but that is “positional asphyxia” and is another subject. ) But whether hands, arms or tools, you have a blood flow attack and/or an air flow attack.

The squeeze is done with-

  • The right hand
  • The left hand
  • Both hands
  • Right forearm (the victim is pushed against something)
  • Left forearm (the victim is pushed against something)
  • Right arm wrap (from behind, full arm or forearm only)
  • Left arm wrap (from behind) full arm or forearm only)
  • Some item that squeezes the neck (like a rope-ligature)
  • What’s the other hand doing in single hand chokes?

The Big 3 Position Problems

  • Standing, with nothing around you
  • Up against something like a wall
  • Bottom-side ground (rarely but possible, topside too)

In the profiling courses I’ve been in and my own disgusting, depressing studies of veteran profilers, some of these stranger criminals do strangle. Stranger attackers like rapists, robbers and kidnappers can also be stranglers, and the quick self defense tricks taught by martial people can help a victim make a quick escape.  But what if you can’t immediately escape? Like a partner or spouse? A National Institution of Justice study found that, “If a person has been strangled by someone who says they love them, their chances of being killed by that person are immense. The study found victims are ten times more likely to eventually be murdered by someone who’s choked them.” Ten times! I repeat – ten times more. Strangulation, anger events in domestics are linked to the murder of women. 

As the Paul Simon song goes, “There must be 50 ways to leave your lover.” But to an abused spouse, it’s…complicated and each one of the 50, as in the big picture of kids, housing, lawyers, money, fear , anger, pain, maiming and even death – just “Hopping on the bus, Gus” is not so simple. So, if the cavalier, Paul Simon says there are 50 simplistic ways, cavalier martial arts people might think there are 50 simplistic, ways to escape the choke/strangulation. And they are indeed some simple ones.

So simple! But I think after a while. Martial artists realize that doing the common, hand strangulations are so easily defeated, the informed/experienced think someone would be crazy to do them. This idea then leads the veteran to forgetting about doing them, and to forget about showing them, and forget about teaching the escapes, forgetting to remind average people that common chokes/strangles are indeed a realistic threat (and certainly for females – who seem to statistically suffer from them the most.) I know I will hear now from “Joe Karate” over this, telling me they still do this stuff already. But I ask, really? ALL THE ONES LISTED ABOVE? And how often? In all 3 big position problems listed above? I’ll bet not. AND…there are hand, stick, knife, gun solutions! Are you doing all those also?

MMA people fear and respect the choke. Old school police do too. But you know what choke I am talking about, the classic rear choke. Maybe the triangle choke. “Giving up your back.” What about  hand strangles MMA? Hand strangles? No, They don’t do it. Its against the rules and therefore why even bother with it. I understand that. One does not football tackle in basketball, nor do finger breaking in Tennis. Nor punch in Judo. The rules of the game. And police are always in controversial trouble touching anyone’s neck. As a result, much choke and counter-choke training is also swept off many LEO outlines and doctrines. Don’t get me started on the subject of police “neck restraints” and “police chokes” semantics. That’s a whole other essay.

Symptoms of strangulation can include:

• a sore throat
• difficulty swallowing
• neck pain
• hoarseness
• bruising on the neck or behind your ears
• discoloration on your tongue
• ringing in your ears
• bloodshot eyes
• dizziness
• memory loss
• drooling
• nausea or vomiting
• difficulty breathing
• incontinence
• a seizure
• a miscarriage
• changes in mood or personality like agitation or aggression
• changes in sleep patterns
• changes in vision such as blurriness or seeing double
• fainted or lost consciousness

Not listed in the above diagram, or perhaps not well known, but I have learned from working cases, are signs of rather vertical scratches on the neck. How’d that happen? The victim grabs the attacker’s hands and tried to pull them off. The victim’s own fingernails scratch their own neck, vertically.  You will find their own DNA under those fingernails. This further proves strangulation was involved in your investigation.

It’s possible to experience strangulation and show no immediate symptoms at first but even die weeks later because of brain damage due to lack of oxygen and other internal injuries. Also, numerous strangle victims have head-brain injuries too, from being bounced off a wall or floor.

But with the proliferation of MMA rear chokes, I am often mystified over the lack of choke, follow-up, MMA injuries compared to those of regular, citizen crime stats. I wonder why so many MMA and martial artists survive so many neck squeezes with no follow-up problems. Because they are in…”shape?” I don’t know. Maybe because we learn to tap-out really fast, and our work-out partners get into the position of a successful choke, know they are, and don’t put the ol’ death squeeze in? And we are released early? Thwarting REAL pressure? I just don’t know. But pro-fighters are checked after fights for neck, and brain injuries. Do the squeezing fingers of the hands cause more, deeper damage potential than a wrapped arm? I just don’t know.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline says, “If your partner has ever put their hands around your neck, put you in a “sleeper hold” or used anything else to strangle you like a scarf, necklace, belt, rope, etc. you may have physical and mental damage.”

What to do?
When I had to walk into a heated domestic disturbance as a patrolman, we cops were expected to perform miracles, expected to solve years of marital/partner discord with our tremendous advice. It…can’t…be…done and I learned quickly that my first goal was to separate the parties for at least the night. If people are hurt? Then we arrest somebody and call an ambulance. But, these folks have to get help tomorrow. WE CAN’T SOLVE THE PROBLEM!

We can’t and neither can Joe Karate. Teaching a woman a simple escape from a strangle hold is one thing. But in her home, at night, a slap-release trick doesn’t solve the problem either. Because when the big brute has his choke hand or forearm slapped away, he gets madder, or more, worse violence occurs to this mentally and physically trapped person (usually a woman, and I say brute because stat-wise it is a high percentage, idiot men that does this.) This is a terrible, complex trap-incident for an abused woman. Can we teach every woman, every time to become a wolverine-banshee when choked, further decimate-incapacitate  her husband, then pack up her kids and leave?  What do you think?

So a few simple escape tricks might get an attacker on a parking lot off of you. That’s handy stuff. But, an abused spouse has many more problems going on that we, as a martial artist, a self defense instructor, a cop on a call, can’t solve. We can show them the quick tricks, but we MUST also watch our for all the troubling signs, and point these people to help.

It always goes back to my drumbeat of the “who, what, where, when, how and why.”

  • Who? Who gets strangled most, then least? Who strangles
  • What? What is the strangle? The Attack? What must you learn to defeat it? What happens next? (More on that later).
  • Where? I believe that most strangles occur in the home. But where else? Parking lots? Where?
  • When? When is this going to happen?
  • How? How will it unfold? How you he react? You?
  • Why? Hate, anger, craziness, etc.

Examine all these big and small questions under the envelope of good intelligence information and your personal life.

But what does happens next? That instant? The next hour? Day? Week? Year? (There is some research that a year breaks the bad, relationship pattern in men with women, in many cases. Again, many factors.) Look, I can’t list all the domestic violence information here. I mentioned earlier the greater resources of today. Search on these topics and get lists, tips and help resources. The internet is full of good advice and help, phone numbers, etc.

Also, can I ask you…the instructor…the practitioner…not to forget going over strangles and choke hold escapes regularly? The whole list I have offered above? I know its so simple and boring. And, keep on eye on people around you. There is an underground world of pain out there hidden behind many houses and apartment walls.

Teaching someone so-called,  self defense is not just poking someone in the eye, or knee in the balls. There’s an immediate problem and the aftermath. Some aftermaths are worse then others. With every act of violence, simple or complicated, there’s a mental or physical trauma and a drama.

What happens…next?


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A Cable Striking Workout I’ve Done For 40 Years

Last month I taught a seminar at Doc Sheldon’s Private Training Center in the Cincinnati, Ohio area. The place is loaded with equipment and I saw a cable machine. As an aside I showed some folks the workout I’ve never stopped doing with cables since the 1980’s, that I thought was fairly common knowledge. Others surrounded us, but no one there had seen it before and they found it inspiring. So for the record, here it is.

We all know the big five, generic  essential punches:

  • Jab (high, medium, low)
  • Cross (high, medium, low)
  • Hook (high, medium, low)
  • Uppercut
  • Overhand or descending overhand

There were eras in the US military that never taught an official jab or official cross, but rather just called them “right punch” or “left punch.” They thought that shoulder and foot positions weren’t important or situational and uncontrollable. I however have always seen a difference and used the training concepts of jab – foot/shoulder forward and cross – rear foot/rear shoulder because I see the need for such isolated practice.

Technically on a cable machine, you are always “pulling” on the handle and pulling cable weights up the “tower” of the machine. But to define this particular exercise process I explain that when you stand facing the machine, the cable is pulling you into it, pulling your hand into the machine. When you are facing away from the machine, you are pushing the handle away from the machine. This is how I like to define the exercises for clarity. Push-Pull. Face-away, push. Face in, pull.

I would like to add quickly that you can use these same cable machine methods with palm strikes for all you anti-punchers out there. But only in the “pushing outward” method.  You have to close your hand to grip the handle with facing in to the machine.  Don’t hyper extend your wrist. Use reasonable weights. Emphasize the palm heel as much as possible.

If you shadowbox with hand weights – yes – you are abstractly building the path for punching. Abstract because you have to remember that your hand, arm and shoulder are battling gravity with that hand weight. The more the weight and the more the hand extends, the more you are building/fighting vertical gravity and building those related up-down muscles. With a cable machine there is no up/down gravity, just the machine pivot point behind or before you at the prescribed height. Some people shadow box with mere 1 or 2 pound weights and this is so light there is not much “gravity” fighting at all. But more hand weight? You are losing goal, effectiveness.  Vertical building? Or, horizontal building? Horizontal unless of course, you are uppercutting or doing low origin shovel hooks.

You won’t get Conan muscles doing these cable exercises. Maybe Conan O’Brian muscles? But I think this method develops striking power and speed. I do a set of 25 reps with each strike listed below, when this series comes up in my rotation, which can be once or twice a week (for 40 years give or take sickness, medical operations, and travel). It takes about 20 minutes of non-stop motion. The next day my arms are very sore and my lower back muscles, with all the torso twisting, are sore. It can be aerobic, but if you switch your feet a lot with the uppercuts and hooks, it adds to workout. 

People like to do various exercises with those big rubber bands, but they can be limiting in range when attempting all the below listed strikes, and you have to hook them onto something! Will the hook be the right height? How? Meanwhile, the ubiquitous cable machine will offer the range and the height and quick-change resistance.

It’s all about the push-pull. Long ago, fitness and sport experts suggested that you must develop the pushing and pulling aspects of functional movement. One way is breaking movements down in isolated exercises. For example, in football practice years ago, they made us run up and down hills. Running down the hill as fast as you can, made you run faster than you ordinarily are. You can feel the extra speed as you struggle to keep up with yourself flying down hill. You also experience what it feels like to be faster than you normally are.  Remember that feeling. Emulate it. The same is true when you work strikes with a cable machine. When you face the machine and punch, the cable weight pulls and should makes you move faster. Just a little! Like running down the hill and falling, don’t overdo this and yank yourself into an injury.  Strike and let the cable weights make you a bit faster. And, when you retract, you get that benefit also.

With this advice, I stand facing the machine and facing away, back to the machine. I do not do these with heavy plates, but you can build up to anything you want, I guess. Just try to remember:

  1. Don’t hurt your wrists!

2. Whether punches or palm strikes get the right positioning for your hand, the best hand-to-handle position. When punching, try to get your knuckles involved in the pulling and pushing. When palm striking, try to get your palm heel involved in the pushing. (You can’t face the machine and “pull” the palm strike because your hand is open.

3. Always try to keep your free hand up and open. Don’t get sloppy and let that other hand drop.

4. Keep your mouth closed, teeth together as a matter of routine. You can still expel “martial” air.


Now, some exercise suggestions

The Jab and Cross (Punch or Palm) Set the pivot height at shoulder length, face away from the machine  and do-

  • A set of right jabs pushing handle.
  • A set of left hand jabs pushing the handle.
  • A set of right crosses pushing handle.
  • A set of left hand crosses pushing the handle.
  • Try some bent-arm low punches, “thrusting gut” punches too. They seem to get ignored. Set the pivot point gear low and do them.

Descending Overhand (Punch or Palm)

  • A set of right overhands pushing handle.
  • A set of left hand overhands pushing the handle.
  • A set of right cross overhands pushing handle.
  • A set of left hand crosses  overhands pushing the handle.
  • A set of right overhands pushing handle with a slight hook.
  • A set of left hand overhands pushing the handle with a slight hook.
  • A set of right cross overhands pushing handle with a slight hook.
  • A set of left hand crosses  overhands pushing the handle with a slight hook.
  • Add a slight hook to this and this exercise helps with a very popular and successful MMA style strike. You may have to reduce the weight a bit as the wrist goes a little funky with the turn and slight hook. Experiment with the weight.

Hooks (Punch or Palm) (High Hooks or Low Hooks)

  • A set of right hooks pushing the weights.
  • A set of right hooks pulling the weights.
  • A set of left hooks pushing the weights.
  • A set of left hooks pulling the weights.
  • (You can use a lot of footwork doing these)

Uppercuts (Punch or Palm)

  • A set of right uppercuts pushing the weights.
  • A set of right uppercuts pulling the weights.
  • A set of left uppercuts pushing the weights.
  • A set of left uppercuts pulling the weights.
  • (You can use a lot of footwork doing these)

Combinations (Punch or Palm)

Set the gear-pulley-pivot points at:

  • various distances apart
  • various heights
  • invent combinations of the above, in both push/pull directions!

Some other points:

  • Of course you should still hit bags, etc. As I have aged, hitting things that don’t give-way (and I don’t wear big boxing gloves, nor wrap my wrists, as I don’t want to become dependent upon them.) cause me follow-up wrist, shoulder or back pain. There are various pieces of equipment that “give” sufficiently.

  • Cable machines also have straps for your ankles and the rest of your legs. You can also rig yourself up for cable, kick (and knee) work. Through the years I have done snapping, hooking kicks/knees with cable machines. But, as I have gotten older with bad hips and deteriorating backbone discs, I can no longer do these under the cable weight without follow-up pain. This essay is just about striking.

You will be looked at by gym trainers as unsafe, uncool and crazy. But after you start doing the uppercuts, blowin’ and goin’, changing footwork with each punch, they tend to leave you alone. In this vein, I am sure there will be a fitness guru here that responds to this essay and tells people I am killing you with this idea. I just don’t think so. 

As usual, as natural, you will do this and get over-confident and keep adding the weight plates. More, more, then more.  Then you will hurt yourself. Then you will heal, recoup, rebuild, add, add again, get over confident, hurt yourself, heal, recoup…re….you get the picture. This is the life we have chosen. This is the lifetime routine. Get use to it or die fat and out of shape.   

These exercises have been very beneficial to me. It’s one more thing I can do in a typical, solo gym workout that leans toward functionality. Some of you may be doing these your whole life too? But I thought I would write this for

  • those who are new at this,
  • those who won’t do them,
  • those who didn’t care to before and might try it now,
  • those who “say” they do them, but not as completely as I have listed here,
  • or for folks who’ve never thought of it.


Australia’s Peter Sciarra on using cable for knee strikes Click here 


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Jaw Broken in a Fight

Loose lips may sink ships, but loose jaws lead to pain and medical operations. 

Or…How can we remember to close our mouths in the assaults, or honor duels of life?

One of my early detective cases in the 1980s was to unravel a country-western, bar fight. About 6 guys were involved. Some were arrested on the scene by patrol. In patrol I/we sorted out the scene and rarely saw the aftermath. But investigators have to become aftermath experts. I caught the case because there were serious bodily injuries, otherwise it would just be another, unassigned, ignored, knucklehead fight passing through the system. Participants would bond out on simple misdemeanors and the disorderly conduct and bruises would fade away. But, sometimes there were serious bodily injuries. I hated to get these cases through time because they were always complicated and messy to – oh, what’s the pop word today – oh yeah…”unpack.” You know, who started it? Who hit who? It’s a messy suitcase.

I set up an appointment for a statement with a mumbling knucklehead on the phone and he showed up at the station. I quickly saw why he was mumbling. His jaw was wired shut! He took a simple hook punch and crackola! Worse, the doctor had to knock out a tooth so he could suck squashed food through a straw. I thought the tooth removal was extreme, but I guess that’s what they did decades ago. Make space for the straw. Adios premolar. He said he had to carry wire cutters in his pocket in case he vomited. And could like…drown in his own vomit. Talk about an emergency. He said he would be wired for almost two months.

This was not my first or last jaw-broke arrest or some-such case, but I think it was my first “aftermath” interview with a broken jaw person.  Through the years I worked numerous, “simple” punches in the face that turned into serious injuries cases, AKA felonies. I have many of these stories but today I seem to be  fixated on broken jaws.

Jaw wiring sounds and looks so bad I was surprised years later to see how many people have their jaws wired to loose weight (and how the modern docs avoid the old tooth removal idea). This diet is extreme, and people still need to have wire cutters very handy.

“But eating is only part of the problem. There’s also a strange claustrophobia that comes with having your jaw wired shut. Try closing your mouth and clenching your teeth together lightly. Now imagine that you can’t move from that position – not even a little bit, not even for a second – for the next six weeks.”- MMA champ Cub Swanson

A very common prognosis is 6 weeks wired up, depending on the fracture. WebMD states that men are about 3 times more likely than women to sustain a broken jaw. The American Bar Association reports broken jaws come from:

  • Assault = 50 percent
  • Slip and Fall = 15 percent
  • Sport Related = 15 percent
  • Auto Accident= 10 percent
  • Other Activities = 10 percent

50% from criminal assaults. I believe these stats are also common in other countries. What can we do about this? I always look to the laboratory of combat sports for great resource info. But, as in all sports, this is of course, why God made mouthpieces. (I tend to use the decades-old term mouth “piece” and not the modern term mouthguard. Mouth pieces today gets confused with lawyers, musical instrument parts and other stuff.)

Give me one moment of your attention as we run the classic facts. Stay with me now…

“Mouthguards are a low-cost way to protect the teeth, lips, cheeks, and tongues,” the docs say. The American Dental Association recommends wearing custom mouthguards for, are you ready, “the following sports: acrobats, basketball, boxing, field hockey, football, gymnastics, handball, ice hockey, lacrosse, martial arts, racquetball, roller hockey, rugby, shot putting, skateboarding, skiing, skydiving, soccer, squash, surfing, …” Their advice ends in three dots, so there are even more hobbies that can’t bother typing them all? Is sex in there? And we can’t forget that even fighters with big gloves and mouthpieces get broken jaws in the ring (see the link below for some in-depth reporting on this and sad stories).

WebMD and Colgate reports – “There are three types of mouthguards. Stock, and boil-and-bite mouth guards are usually found in most sporting goods stores. Athletic mouth guards can vary in comfort and cost. A custom-made mouth guard fabricated by a dentist or orthodontist is considered by many to be the most protective option. The most effective mouth guard is resilient, tear-resistant and comfortable. It should fit properly, be durable, be easy to clean and should not restrict speech or breathing.” 

SISU says, “Mouthguards can also protect others from your teeth. Even if it doesn’t hurt you or you don’t feel it, you can easily injure another player with your teeth. If another accidentally smacks their elbow on your teeth, it’s highly unlikely for your teeth to break skin if you are wearing a mouthguard. “

OKAY! Whew, we have officially covered the usually boring, safety briefing stuff. Now lets get…real…(those three dots again). Martial stuff.  We are not playing soccer, but rather punching, palming and elbowing and even kicking the lower parts of heads as a matter of routine.

At the US Army military police academy back in the early 70s, some boxer MP cops ran a boxing program off-hours and weekends to augment the official “combatives” at the academy. As a Parker Karate guy, I signed right up. A coach handed me a little box with a mouthpiece in it and told me it’ll save my teeth and would teach me to keep my mouth shut when fighting. I didn’t know back then he meant shut for “all” fighting, not just boxing. In good theory, rep time wearing your mouthpiece should also reinforce your mission to keep your jaw closed when fighting, which we all know is a key structure for jaw break prevention.

A mouthpiece or two, usually quite nasty, can be found in all serious workout bags.  In the fight world, the mouthpiece helps us, does  teach us, requires us, makes us keep our mouths shut. Loose lips may sink ships, but loose jaws lead to medical operations. We would like to create the, dare I say “muscle memory” (note the quotes you anal retentive bastards), to keep our mouths shut in bare knuckle fights. But do we wear them all the time? Enough of the time, to create this habit? Do you?

People in the combat-sports-and-defense-business don’t always train with mouthpieces in. Class after class covering methods in kick boxing, boxing, Thai, Krav, combatives, etc. have people doing tons of drills without their mouthguards in place. Copious amounts of all kinds of training is worked on and during so, few even think about their mouth positions, their jaws at all, and least of all shove a piece in for every whole class. Think about this. Think of you. Think of your friends and classmates. Think about your school, organization. If you’re not actually sparring, are you wearing a mouthpiece all of the time? Some of the time? Never?  Do you practice for this? Or seemingly…ignore it? Is the idea ignored in your chosen course/school?


Numerous protected fighters have still had their jaws broken.


I was in a rather popular, international, Thai Boxing association in the 80s and 90s and passed the first 5 levels of 10. There was very, very little actual Thai boxing in the ring with this famous group, but rather a ton of mitt/pad work. There was no strict, organizational rule about wearing a mouthguard in training drills. In fact, think about the sound effects you hear in Thai. With every strike, with every kick comes the standard “whoosh” or swoosh” from pursed lips. The whoosh/swoosh is articulated, not muffled. Such takes a little free mouth and jaw manipulation. No mouthguards evidenced. Tons of class time sans the piece. What then about Jeet Kune Do? Wing Chun? How much time is spent working on a stand-off “duel” like two boxers, and doing entry tricks without an iota of concern about your jaw position. Karate? Stick work?

Now, if there is equal time sparring, you have time and grade wearing a mouthpiece and teaching your jaw to stay shut in a fight. (You can still exhale air malevolently with a mouthpiece). But, it must  be noted that breathing well and fully with a mouthguard is a constantly reported problem by many practitioners for all the obvious “passageway” reasons, and mouths tend to open. Jaws drop for air and from fatigue. Dangerous times!

While people can be assaulted on the proverbial “streets,” fights happen everywhere. Domestics in houses. Workplaces. Rec places …yes… country western bars, and 50% of all broken jaws come from  these assaults.  It stands to reason, you won’t be wearing a mouthguard when attacked. But you can practice in one and develop good , teeth-gritting, “muscle memory.”  

Are you? Is your school/course geared for self defense? The piece helps keep/train our jaws to be shut, like a prop, and secure when we are attacked in the “outside” world. In real life, we don’t have or fight with mouthpieces. They just don’t seem to be handy. They are in a smelly little container in gym bag somewhere. How does this spell out for you? We have to remember to close our mouths in the assaults or honor duels of our lives.

It’s just something for you to think about. It’s a topic practitioners should consider, discuss intelligently, and have an opinion on, one way or the other.

(One quick, side story. I know a Russian bar bouncer in Australia who had a  bouncer friend with a successful de-escalation trick. When the friend was having an elevated confrontation with a customer. The friend would put up one finger, reach into his pocket and pull out a mouthguard. He’d insert it. That act alone often quelled many disturbances.)


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Boxing Glove Leftovers – Fists ON Your Face, Yours…

Does this photo disturb you?

It bothers me.

It represents a GIGANTIC transition, mistake in “real fighting,” or…or…”non-sport, fighting.” Whatever you want to call it. First off, let me say that I hate to pick on a single photo. It is often unfair. Taken out of context. All that. You have to look at the single, training photo with some big picture analysis. But I am not picking on any one person or system. This photo is representative of years of what I’ve seen. Decades even, and still do see it. That is placing your bare fists tight up against your face as some sort of standard fighting stance  

Let’s jump right to my point. If you see this before you? Try and strike the bare fist glued on the face.  Any strike you like. Hit it or them. It’s lunch. Lunch served up for you from yesterday’s leftovers. The original meal from yesterday? Sport, big-gloved boxing. It’s an odd leftover from that. It does not transition well.

Another main theme in the ballpark here? Let’s hyper jump right to it now also – if you are -solder-ing, LEO-ing, krav maga-ing, citizen-ing, or combatives-ing your way to self defense? Your core punching research and study must prioritize BARE-KNUCKLE BOXING! Not just sport, big glove boxing of “western” and Thai. (And even in Bare Knuckle fights, they still wrap parts of their hands and their wrists. I may not get a chance here to discuss hand and wrist wraps and how it relates to real struggles.) At any rate when the fight starts in the supermarket, or the factory floor, or the family picnic, you will not be wearing boxing gloves and your hands and wrists won’t be wrapped.  

Palms, hammers, and, we are going to discuss punching here. This is NOT an essay about fist-punching versus palm strikes. Lots of folks hurt their bare hands punching and remember…LOTS DON’T! Lots of people DO NOT break their hands punching.  That’s another subject. Let’s take one thing at a time. This is not that time.

I would instead like to address the many “reality” training operations that way overuse big, boxing gloves in their classes, or some big glove boxing theories, passing them off as self defense training. And the one major leftover – fists glued on face as some sort of fighting stance.

You see a lot of POSED photos with fighters and martial artists with their hands up and on, or almost on, their faces.  Photographers try to get the hands and/or gloves up in the picture frame. These same people might not fight or use a stance like this, but the distribution of these photos help create the “fist on face” copy-cat motif.  People will mindlessly replicate this. Even Instructors will mindlessly replicate this.  And whole systems will too. Should folks without big gloves stand like this as some sort of official fighting stance? As a matter of system doctrine? I say no.

Look, if you know me, you know I am a proponent and exponent of boxing. I filmed and produced a highly regarded, fantastic, popular,  boxing series with Jim McCann in Sugar Ray Leonard‘s gym in Baltimore. 

I have boxed and kick boxed since the 1970s. I still make my students kick box for various skills. And so many wonderful, important, simple things come from boxing. Examine it and experiment. Not everything transitions over to a crime or war survival struggle.  Like gloves.  Everyone knows, takes for granted, that you won’t be wearing big-ass, boxing gloves when ambushed, fighting wars, or arresting people, or as they say, “street fighting,” but I ask you to think this through, fully realize that some sport, boxing-big-glove, associated movements have some leftover cancers. Make the training mission connection. 

If you are indeed a boxer, then you must wear boxing gloves.  Same with Thai. You are a boxer! In western boxing, everything is about the big glove. Every aggressive and defensive movement is centered around those big gloves. If you are not a sport boxer? Don’t wear them, or at least limit them for special purposes (more on that later.) The MMA glove is superior tool for MMA, and/or that real, street fight prep. Best? No gloves at all for prep, but with extended time periods on mitts and bags , MMA gloves can be a skin and bone saver and your training can endure longer periods.

Making the solid, bare knuckle fist.  Can you make a solid fist inside a boxing glove? Where is your thumb? Through the years, boxing glove manufacturers warn you that you need to wrap your hands and wrists and you can’t make a tight fist in a glove. The glove/no-glove transition, or lack thereof? Assaults and robberies, etc, crime history is replete with the hand injury stories of sports people suddenly not wearing the sport gear. Like the time in 1988 when Mike Tyson bare-knuckle punched a guy and while knocking the antagonist into the next dimension, he broke his hand. A point to consider is boxers hand and wrists are wrapped under their gloves, and they do not make serious, like a “free-hand,” closed fists inside boxing gloves, this position becomes their muscle memory. Take the gloves off? Under stress, they probably block and punch with incomplete concerns about their hand positions (and thumbs). I know several, old-school, kick boxer, cops that broke their hands punching people in arrests. I, and we, could go on and on as we all have these stories. If you fight bare-handed as though you are wearing big boxing gloves you may have serious problems. 

I first saw these bare-hand, “strike-the-cover-hand” methods in JKD, FMA and Silat back in the 1980s. We did material about palm striking, hammer fisting  and punching the opponent’s bare hands when they were on the face, or very, very close to the face, and “trapping/delaying” their bare hands when on their chest area, if they seemed pin-able. But for me and I know others, the training was so segmented, we never grasped the big picture. We would put our Thai clothes on and change mentalities and methods and then do that. Change clothes again and do something else. Rules. Segmented. We would box and just do that. Rules. Segmentation. Karate and do that. These rules and segmentations are not good. No blend. No evolution. Sometime, somehow, in the 1990s, the light switch came on for me to truly blend.

When teaching in the late 80s and 90s in my regular school, I taught in a city with two major colleges. The volume of people I saw come and go was remarkable. I never taught kids, Always adults. Many were students of other systems and I saw quite a number of folks whose definition of a fighting stance was to place their bare fists right on the their faces, or just barely off their faces, as in the photos above. Plenty also placed their finger knuckles right on their upper gum line or maybe their cheekbones. I interviewed them and this was from leftover boxing or kick boxing. Leftover big glove arts. I want to make three quick points about this mistake.

Point 1: Getting hit like this is not good. I mean…think about it!

Point 2: Distance? – If you are unlucky enough to be in some kind of fight, will there be a stand-off, “duel,” square-off situation? It’s possible. Maybe. Yes. If so, if you plant your hands on your face you are letting your opponent get closer in to you than if your hands were out, toward him more. JKD’s Larry Harstell once said in a seminar, “Make him earn that space, don’t just give it to him.” Your reaction time sucks enough already without allowing him to get closer in to you, shaving even more time off.

So, in bare knuckle fight theory, not big glove theory – and well, maybe in big glove theory sometimes too – hands always on your face like this is a problem. (This is also a problem with the newer, turban, head-wrapping fad/craze. Jez…folks. There are quick doomsday blocks/cover when you absolutely need it, compared to just over-doing, over-wrapping your head. Overdoing this head-wrapping turban stuff is…is just nutty and a marketing trick.) Again, “Make him earn that space, don’t just give it to him.” People like to argue about fists-on-face as being fine, but they cannot win an argument on this distance issue. The “earn-the-space” distance issue alone wins the argument.

Think about how many self defense people put up the classic “fence-thingy” – hands up, hands out, palms out to keep people away.  Distance theory.  Your hands can sometimes keep people away. Find your comfortable, performance spot. 

Point 3: He’s covered? –  If you are a regimented, segmented, programmed boxer wearing gloves and you see your opponent boxer lift his or her big, padded, boxing gloves up to their face, this is some proper, padded protection. You think…”oh well, darn, he’s covered.” To some extent with big gloves this is true. But when a leftover, un-gloved person follows this same gloved habit with bare fists, the regimented boxer might see this too, as “cover,” and still hesitate to strike because he thinks…“Oh well, darn, he’s covered.” Leftover thinking from gloved boxing habits. The other guy is not “covered/protected.” No big gloves! You have no padded gives. He has no padded gloves. If you have an open path to the head and hands on face? Travel it. Hit them. Hit these bare fists on his face. 

You can try (note the word “try”) and hit the “glued-hands” in a standoff position should a standoff happen, or after his strike. You deal with his strike however, then you must really worry about…”the other hand.” Where is it? How alive is it?  If it’s up there on his face, maybe you can hit it with these classic JKD, Silat, FMA, etc suggestions- 

1: straight punch or hooking punch to…

2: straight or hooking palms to…

3: hooking hammer fist to…

Hand are fast, Your hands. His hands. Fast. And structural mistakes can be overcome by moving your hands around quickly as needed.  Lots of people quickly and smartly use their forearms for sudden protection. Fast hands might save the bare-fists-glued-on-face guys, but, fast hands are no excuse to justify stupid doctrine.  Most “fighters” retreat to forearm covers and hands way back in the instant that they need them, nicknamed “doomsday blocks.” They don’t use this position as a fighting stance standard. Once escaped, they return to “normal, up-front” hand positions.

I am writing here about maximizing potential strategies and doctrine. Know your goal. Know the best way to achieve it. Remove abstracts, or at very least reduce the abstract. In training, it is almost impossible to completely remove the abstract…because…it’s training. So, reduce the abstract where you can. This is a constant challenge. 

Bare fists on face? I once again must resort to one of my hero’s remarks, champ Bas Rutten when he said on this subject “Ah, the meat-helmet defense. Would you put a focus mitt up to your cheek and let me punch it? No, because it’ll still KTFO.”

Several traveling seminar instructors these days, I think are running out of ideas, and have started to add/teach pure, BIG-GLOVED boxing. I think this is a mistake unless they openly advertise –

“Self Defense Weekend! Plus – 2 hours of Sheer Sport Boxing.” 

Okay then, mission properly advertised honestly and well stated. You’ll do self defense stuff and pure sport boxing. Or, how about –

“Self Defense Weekend! Plus – 2 hours of Applying Boxing Methods to Street Fighting.” 

The word “applying” is key. There will be changes! Nicely advertised. But maybe with MMA gloves, we hope?

“BOXING! The Best Self Defense!” 

No. Not alone. No. Every week the UFC is on TV, this message is sent out to the world.  Even neophytes can see this.

But this is not just a mistake of a traveling seminar person. This mistake appears in regular “self defense” classes in schools. If you do pure, big glove boxing as part and parcel of your self defense class you are off-mission. Not good. Not smart – especially when you could so easily fix that with no gloves or MMA gloves and a few short explanations.  Many Krav schools have also added/introduced big glove boxing on mitts, bags, etc. to fill class time? Exercise? And appear to be more combative? Is this the best use of class time?

Folks,  let’s not forget the mechanics of hitting. Hitting mitts and bags with big round, padded gloves is different than with MMA gloves or bare handed.  It…feels…different. It feels different on your hands and in your wrists. Also, using your knuckles as striking point tools are easily lost inside the bulbous, boxing glove. Spending a whole lot of your self defense time hitting gear with big boxing gloves is just “off-mission.”

The MMA glove is better because in fights you need to hit AND grab and grapple. And for so-called “reality fighting,” on the “doctrine chalkboard,” MMA today is superior to “BJJ” and “Boxing,” because it already includes both as a mission. But if you just want to wrestle, or box? Fine! You do what you want and like. It’s your choice, your hobby, your fun, your exercise. Even your addiction. And addiction doesn’t always allow you to think straight.  Just know what you are doing. Who, what, where, when, how and why. Know where it fits in the big picture.

I mentioned “special purposes use” earlier. I do love to see the boxing gloves on the walls where I teach. I need them sometimes as a progressive, handy tool. When do I slip big boxing gloves in when teaching? I do still use them when I think its appropriate. One example would be some ground fighting. Hero on the ground, trainer on top of him punching down. We are trying to get the bottom guy to do a move or maybe draw a knife or gun under some stress. I will ask the topside guy to wear one or two boxing gloves and give the bottom guy some safer, distracting flak. And, there are indeed times, when I think its appropriate, people need to just flat-out box for a host of skill developing reasons I seeking to work on, and the big gloves are a safer device in a progression to a bare knuckle goal.

So the “stance?” When I warn people about the fist-on-the-face-thing, they ask, “well, where should your hands be?”  For a quick response? “Not there!”  A vast, and I mean vast,  majority of boxers, MMA and otherwise systems have their hands up and a bit forward and off  from their faces, in the upper window of combat. I’d say, a vast majority. And most keep them moving a bit anyway. A so-called fighting stance is about balance and power in motion, not a still photo, position. I could probably show 8 different photos here representing tons of boxing and non-boxing fighters with their dukes up in varying heights somewhat away from their faces. 

For me, for my “business” (and yours?) I am not developing boxing-boxers. I am trying to study and utilize Boxing and Thai. I am trying to help the spread of “self defense” survival in a bare hand, stick, knife, gun world. Are you? What…is…your…mission? If you don’t already, please consider the necessary changes from sport boxing to the “hitting below the belt,” no rules fighting you claim to teach. One such examination involves the use of, or limited use of,  or non-use of, the big boxing glove.

(Update:  This essay was shared and re-shared from here over 150 times, with a couple of thousand comments. People are still finding it and commenting. ALL positive but for TWO! Only two separate, panantukan instructors claim that it is smart to start all fights from their face cheeks. They believe that their hands are faster if fired from the face cheeks. I couldn’t help but look up a video or two that one of them made and sure enough, it seems like one guy’s fashioned his entire system, for years, based on the fist on cheek fighting stance. It would seem when overwhelming comments from veteran experts – oh, like Bas? – and some science and common sense comes along, one might change/evolve.  But no…)

More! Click here and watch Bas Rutten video test! Bare knuckle vs. MMA glove vs. boxing glove

More! Slightly off topic, but interesting – The Paradox of Boxing Gloves


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Investigating the Term – First Responders?

(This is not going to be popular. I will get hate mail.)

I went to eat lunch with an old friend the other day, a 40 year vet,  cop and when we climbed into his SUV squad car, I spotted a cool-looking ball cap on the back seat amid some cop-clutter. I picked it up and the design and shape was great. The text read something about a fire department. 
“Nice hat,” I said.
“Yeah, got it free at training event. But, I won’t wear a fucking fire department hat.
We both laughed. I got that. I know what he means. It’s a dysfunctional family history. An abject jealously. Do you know about it?

…you have to understand I am an old cop. When I told my friends I was going to retire years ago, one said, “You can’t! You bleed blue!”  Nice sentiment. But after 20 years of retirement, I cut my face shaving the other day and it was indeed…leaking red blood. Still, I have a stout DNA connection to that job. I still stay connected to the people, the issues and I am very introspective about police shootings. So, while I still have a “older, distracted dog in the hunt,” I am out of the business. As Delta, Blackhawk Down, vet Paul Howe puts it in his book, “I was once an AG – action guy. Now I am just a Former Action Guy, or a…FAG.”  So, as a FAG, I can speak more freely about public safety subjects. This exact subject here? The nuances of the term – First Responders. Then second, some embarrassing disclosures about the some cop vs fireman feuds that most people don’t know about, and how that intermingles with the pop ” first responder” heyday.

There a million and a half ways to screw up every day as a cop. Not to mention being sued, fired, beaten and shot at. It is hard for any cop to stay out of trouble these days. Even abstract trouble. Even silly trouble. And when you feel the consistent heat or wrath from the admin or the public, the old veteran sergeant would repeat the running joke line about cops and firemen.

“You’re a cop. If you wanted to loved? You shoulda joined the fire department.”

The fire department. And there you have it. For decades now, did you know that in many cities in the USA there are underground rumblings of cops vs. fireman? Many cops have a jealousy, a resentment about firemen.

It really starts with the public idolization, and then government budget battles, and the fact that while cops are out getting spit on, or cleaning vomit out of the back seat of their cars, firemen are making spaghetti dinners and inventing new fishing lures.  Some run family businesses. They work out, watch TV, and even get paid to sleep. Look at the satirical clock photo. So through time, lot of police officers have just a little resentment about firemen. I guess I should say firefighters, but whatever.

Yeesss, through the years we work together when dispatched, but this little resentment lingers here and there. A police commander from Wisconsin, writes “In law enforcement we call firefighters Second Responders. The firefighter motto “Sleep til you’re hungry, Eat til you’re tired”. Oh yeah, and if you can’t sleep, wash your wife’s car.”   A 40 year vet from Los Angeles P.D. wrote me and said. “Right on brother. Those words (this essay) could have come right put of my mouth.”  North, south, east and west this little jealously feud exits.

Merriam Webster notes that the first serious definition of “First Responder” appeared on the scene in 1970 and read: “Definition of first responder- a person (such as a police officer or an EMT) who is among those responsible for going immediately to the scene of an accident or emergency to provide assistance.”

No…firemen? Then, and I don’t know exactly when, maybe since 911, the term “First Responders” became hip, patriotic and popular and for quite some time now, the term grouped police, fire and ambulance folks. Ambulance folks can be fire department people or private contractor people. People with “lights and sirens.” I think when the public hears the term “First Responders” they now think of the big three. After all, when we are all shot, stabbed, crushed or broken, we sure do like to see those EMT people arrive and quickly. When there’s a fire, you sure need firefighters.

The public – you – being wonderful, have done wonders for the big three, since you have lumped us together. Golf tournaments, benefits, fund raisers…what else? You name it. “Help our first responders!” Even some politicians have shined in the uplifting. It seems through the years the term “First Responders” has taken on a life of its own. Almost become flippant. Cavalier. The new Avengers! Police. Fire. Emergency Medical annnnddd Captain America!

We do all need them, and by some broad definition, they all respond very quickly. Get there “first.” But speaking of hats, let me put my police ball cap on. Statistically, who actually gets “there” first? And to what exactly? A car wreck? Heart attack? Robbery? Shooting? A fight? Usually, it’s the PO-lice. Despite bad response times, we are already “out and about.” And have a nasty knack of getting there first. Police First Responders. These days when I review a police officer shooting, I often shake my head and mutter, “cannon fodder.” They  get shot, and-or killed just arriving to a scene with some frequency, trying to figure out the situation and the people.

Cannon fodder for those of you outside the business is defined as “an informal, derogatory term for combatants who are regarded or treated by government or military command as expendable in the face of enemy fire.” If you dissect a lot of police shootings, you see that first responder COPS, are often mere, unlucky cannon fodder. Getting there first. The garbled message of “shots fired” or “need back-up,” hits the airwaves and technically, the back-up, the…second and third responders if you will, come better prepared for a critical incident. Eventually the ‘first responder” EMTs come fourth or fifth, or – I might add – or, they don’t enter until the area at all until it is safe enough. Again, nuance. What is the actual, physical, timeline order of response of responders? I guess it is a bit clumsy to cheer for the “FGOG of R! ” – that being the “First, (second thru fourth) “General,” Overall Group of Responders.”

Everybody knows that the police do a lot more other than responding to stuff. Like, what happens BEFORE the response? Police have to do things like traffic stops and arrests and take action in suspicious circumstances when and where they INITIATE dangerous situations and outcomes. Is that even an official, “first responder definition” in the “first responders” world? I guess in an abstract way they are “responding,” to something, but un-dispatched, and they are actually kicking something off aren’t they? Not dispatched-sent to a problem.  So not only are police professional responders, they are also “initiators.” What’s the response time to initiation? Zero seconds?  

I will put it to you, that being an “initiator cop” and a “first responder cop” is a helleva lot more spontaneously difficult, complicated, dangerous, diverse and tricky than being a first responder fireman or EMT, with not just their lives but their job security on the line. Read the news lately? So, this is my personal take on the toughest job in the First Responder categories. 

I am not trying to suggest that the of job of fireman or EMT wasn’t and still isn’t dangerous. I do remember a time, decades ago when EMTs and firemen charged into hostile neighborhoods to help folks and got a broken, black and white TV set dropped on their heads from the 5th floor. Or, when they charged into a shooting and got hurt. But soon, there were protocols in place for many fire and EMT responders to lay back and wait until they deemed entry was safe. Who – makes – it – safe? The folks with the guns. The PO-lice. But yeah, bad stuff still happens to them. Please do read the links below.

Here’s a big picture list of dangerous jobs in America. Life working in the US of A is dangerous…

1-Fishers and related fishing workers
2-Logging workers
3-Aircraft pilots and flight engineers
5-Refuse and recyclable material collectors
6-Structural iron and steel workers
7-Driver/sales workers and truck drivers
8-Farmers, ranchers and other agricultural managers
9-Supervisors of landscape, lawn & groundskeeping workers
10-Electrical power-line installers and repairers
11-Miscellaneous agricultural workers
12-First-line supervisors of construction  & extraction workers
13-Helpers, construction trades
14-Maintenance and repair workers, general
15-Grounds maintenance workers
16-Construction laborers
17-First-line supervisors of mechanics, installers and repairers
18-Police and sheriff’s patrol officers
19-Operation engineers and construction equipment operators
20-Mining machine operators
21-Taxi drivers and chauffeurs
22-Athletes, coaches, umpires and related workers
23-Painters, construction and maintenance

Score cops 19th. Fire is 24. EMTs not on the list. The news doesn’t report the deaths of fisherman or garbage-men, like they do in police and fire work. This creates a false sense of “danger status.” I have seen a CBS news report once that combined police and fire, and ranking the combo as 15 on the danger list. Take out the cop stats though, and firefighters drop a lot, with another news report stating that being pizza delivery man is more dangerous than firefighting. You know…traffic accidents. (Maybe pizza men need lights and sirens too? What do you think?)

A lot of this great firefighter safety has to do with experience, advancing technology and methodology. Job smarts. If EMTs are ever in the top 72 dangerous jobs? Let me know. I might have missed that year. I recall that vehicle accidents and injuries lifting people and so forth, are problems. Plus the occasional whack-out, knucklehead.

But seriously, danger is not the only review of first responder operations. Being ready to go and getting there ASAP to help is. And the subject of danger is associated with bravery and heroism. Avengers assemble!

More roofers die. But we respond. Still, it is nice to see the overall appreciation, the “Our First Responders” flag waving. Nice to stand on the elevated platform. But an insider’s view? The police “collective” does look to its right and left on the heroes platform and sees the “Fire Collective” and the “Medical Collective” and we can have a deeper, insider opinion on the depth and definitions of the term, “First Responders.” But did you now there are even more First Responders on the platform. It’s getting crowded.

Did you know that despite the common, current “big 3” impression, a newer, dictionary definition of First Responders is “someone designated or trained to respond to an emergency. Such as a lifeguard.” They offer up a lifeguard as the only example? Think about how many ways that new definition can be split into various job titles. Then think  about the definition of the word “emergency.”

U.S. Homeland Security Presidential Directive, HSPD-8 piles on: “The term “first responder” refers to those individuals who in the early stages of an incident are responsible for the protection and preservation of life, property, evidence, and the environment, including emergency response providers as defined in section 2 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 as well as emergency management, public health, clinical care, public works, and other skilled support personnel (such as equipment operators) that provide immediate support services during prevention, response, and recovery operations.”

A lot more people on that hero platform that are not getting shot and burned up. People with no lights and sirens!  Oh well, even the Avengers keep growing and growing too, I guess. But that starts sounding like a whole bunch of first responders.

Of course anyone at any time can be hero. When asked who my heroes are, I always say “cops, soldiers, doctors.” These are very broad terms. I don’t feel bad about not mentioning lifeguards, plumbers or tractor operators.  I do feel just a little bit bad by not mentioning firefighters, though. Just a little. But I am still not going to wear the above aforementioned fire, ball cap, either. It’s just a long, dysfunctional family history thing. Even though I don’t bleed blue blood anymore. It’s red, and if I see a lot of it coming out of me? I will damn sure quickly call an EMT.

Article on this EMT subject, click here:

Article on this Firefighter subject, Click here:


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“I AM LEFF.” – Remy Presas

Remy Presas frequently told this story in seminars. Many of us have heard this “leff story.”

After witnessing several bolo (machete fights) which I chronicled earlier on the Presas Group Page) , and after the somewhat underground “sport” of bolo fights began to disappear from deaths and maimings, rounded sticks replaced the bolos in fighting for money. (Not sticks shaped liked swords but rounded ones – something else I wrote about on the Presas page.)  Remy fought these fights for money in boxing rings, cockfight arenas and wherever betting groups might gather. He told us that after a while, numerous people approached him to teach them and their sons how to stick fight.

“But I am leff,” he told them. Left-handed. “And dey were right.” He said he could not teach them. They pushed the requests.

“But de money became so good…I become right.” He started to teach them the stick with his right hand. Much of it was longer range stick dueling (“of course, you could just hit de man in de head with a stick.” – he would often say, when discussing complicated moves.)

And as Remy has said often, the double sticks help teach the “other side” anyway.

In short, really short – lefty versus righty has always been a big thing in sports. The southpaw boxer. The lefty pitcher versus the righty hitter in baseball. Lefties are 1 in 10 people. This is an advantage for them simply because most sports folks and fighters have built up a “versus righty” repertoire, a library in their head, even like in their “subconscious” of what tiny steps and moves a righty does to hit, kick and position them. The most subtle increments are stored in the brain. We use them as tip-offs. We see less of these reps from a lefty, as there are less lefties.

“I become right. I become good.”

And he made a lot of money teaching righties. But still fighting too. (and he had a few jobs too. Working at a family shipyard and…not known by many, a barber.)

He would say in seminars about the money stick fights…

“Round one, I am right.”
Round two, I am right.
Round three…I am leff. I win!”

His eyebrows would raise. We all would laugh. We got it.

Remy became as ambidextrous as possible. In close quarters, he could switch hands effortlessly and really foul up your brains. He taught this inside the newer tapi tapi. He taught this on the single stick versus double stick drills, as you must go single stick right and left-handed versus the double sticks. (Ernesto did this too.) These were Presas “leff” priorities which I can’t say I found “up front” in many other FMA systems.

(I remember one Inosanto seminar many, many years ago in Irving, Texas where, for about 2 or 3 hours on a Sunday, we did left-hand sumbrada. It freaked all the experts out.)

“You must do boff leff and right!” – Remy Presas


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My Mistakes in the Knife World.

This is where I have fallen down. Where my knife course has fallen down.  Before the Fall.  In the 1990s there was a “resurgence” if you will, a re-look, re-examination of knife material. Some might call it knife fighting, but I don’t like that term. But you are still indeed, fighting with a knife when you are…fighting with a knife.  Still, I don’t like many terms, images, messages, logos relating to the knife and knife fighting. By that time in the 90s, I was in police work for quite a while, both in the Army and in Texas, most of that time as a detective. I’d seen and experienced working on a lot of knife crime, as in aggravated assaults, rapes, attempted murders  and murders. I have been attacked by both knife and ax.

I know the depressing, dark side, the wet side in juxtaposition to all the smiling people having fun, slap-dashing around in gyms playing tag with wooden and rubber knives. Knife training is often treated quite cavalierly. This doesn’t have to be the case as the culture of pistol training is quite serious and full of foreboding and legal scares. Careful, mature training cultures do exist, and this must become true in knife training also.

In the early 90s, this edged weapon resurgence was sort of an international turning point in knife training. A reboot if you will? It first resurrected the old military knife courses and the semi-legendary names of yesteryear. They weren’t “kuraty” superstars. A sophisticated look at them however, revealed, they weren’t so sophisticated. So several of us, using the newer sports training methods of the time, and bolstered by years in Filipino martial arts or other historical backgrounds, stepped into the ring and made “new” knife courses. Gone was the martial arts uniforms, belts, etc. We wore jeans with pockets and regular clothing belts. Street clothes.

Some of the 90s knife pioneers? James Keating. Tom Sotis. Kelly Worden, Bram Frank, Bob Kasper, yours truly, to name just a few, but there really were only a few of us. (Vunak is an 80s pioneer.) We wore shirts, jeans and shoes. I even taught at times in a suit and tie. We didn’t trust the old stuff and we didn’t trust the established martial arts either, even the Filipino applications of the knife are often tricky. (Do you want to walk around wearing a vest with 12 knives?) Be free. Think free. Be skeptical. Are you a replicator? Or an innovator? 

Still, the old just helps the new. This was also part of a bigger  “breakaway” from establishments that was going on in that decade. The world was seeing MMA (or at least ground wrestling) on TV like never before. And somehow a collection of old stuff, dressed in athletic pants, painted in “Israeli mystique” – Krav Maga – was really shoved down the throats of Tae Kwon Do schools as mandatory, by clever (and insidious) shaming, business groups, like NAPA in the 90s. Revolution was in the 1990s air! Jeet Kune Do was spreading into a heyday.  Inosanto JKD/MMA was already doing Thai and ground, and so much more. Ever hear of “Shoot?”  But, I guess the Israeli mystique was greater than the Bruce Lee mystique? Mystique? Yes. Ever so important in advertising, sales and manipulation. That’s how we pick shoes, cars, purses and pistols (politicians, religions and…) Manipulation. More on that later…

My knife course had a few odd, infancy names in 1990 and 1991, but it was quickly called “When Necessary? Force Necessary: Knife!”  But the title was a little long and clunky and it was shortened to “Force Necessary: Knife!” I do prefer the longer, clunky name, as it completely explains exactly what I mean to say. Only use that force necessary when absolutely necessary. But I got around doing that knife material. Lots of traveling, lots of seminars. Even around the world. It lead to being voted Black Belt Magazine, Weapon Instructor of the Year and also into their BB Hall of Fame.  I also  “scored-very -well” in the non arts world. Before the fall, I was…yes…a player, as Spike Lee might say, “Wazzzup, playah?” (Hey, this was the 90s we’re talking about!)

Black Belt. Tact Knifes. Hall of Fames. TRS. Such was the jargon and the martial/political stage of the 90s. Today, it’s hard to grasp that the total, martial world communication back that existed was with just 6 or 8 international, martial arts magazines. That’s it! Try and list them. Yes, Black Belt, Blitz, Martial Arts Illustrated, Inside Kung Fu, Inside Karate,  try and list them. They were the filter for us all. Talk forums developed slowly later and now, like the magazines, are almost all extinct.

Now? Now I don’t know where the martial arts communication filter exists, specifically. The…web…the gazillions of webpages? The gazillions of podcasts? The gazillion of….Instagrams? Facebook? Yesterday’s business card is today’s webpage. And dipshits can pay to have amazing looking webpages. The battle for exposure takes a business up and down many extremely, frustrating, costly roads. 

Of course with all businesses, this 1990s knife movement kicked off a new interest and a fair number of new knife courses popped up through and to, by 2005-ish, often by less experienced, less organized people, and in my opinion doing less comprehensive programs. But this business evolution is to be expected. Invent a new “widget?” There’s a knock-off. Then knock-offs with an “S.”  In the big picture of training and education  however, not widgets, this is a positive thing. Awareness. Curiosity. Growth. 

So When Did I fall? It happens slowly and then one day you are down looking up. How’d I get down here? Not enough Instagram pictures? Some 25 odd years later, in about 2015, on a popular public forum someone asked me what I thought of Johnny Swift’s new, knife, quick-draw article. Of course it was named something super-spiffy like “Armageddon Instrument Production,” but it’s just knife quick draws. New, Biblical advice they preached, and published in the new amazing world of web-jargon magazines called something like “Organic Micro Evolution of Edged Prophetic Dynasty.” (I just made that magazine name up, but how far am I off? Have you seen these seminars names lately? Aren’t you impressed, or can you see right through the pretentiousness? ) So anyway, I read Swift’s ground-breaking, testament as featured in “Retrograde, Skill Supremacy, Fusion Elite Magazine” and I replied on the public forum –

“Oh, I have to like Swift’s article. It is virtually, word-for-word, from my 1992, Knife Level 1 outline.”

My review/remark caused a lot of guffaws and a few smart ass remarks, among the 20 and 30 year old readers, most of whom were so submerged in modern “dynasty jargon” and up to their beards in mystique, and lost in the gazillion web world, they’d never even heard of us older guys from the 90s. I mean, who am I to comment like this on their latest fad-boy genius? I added that I was not suggesting that Johnny Swift plagiarized my outline, as it might have innocently been co-opted, or the older info has become so embedded into the “knife world” it was deemed as open knowledge. I reminded the guffawers that the spread of education is a good thing and that at very least, I only partook in that process. I said that the old just helps the new, and you have to remember the old, so history doesn’t repeat itself. As Dave Spaulding likes to remind us, “It’s not new. It’s just new to you.”

One guy was clever enough to say, “Well, sorry I missed you when I was 5 years old.”  I told him that was a pretty damn, funny retort. But missed me? Dude, I never left. But actually he never knew I was around to begin with.  That is part of the mysterious “fall.”

(That level 1 outline is/was free to the public and has been distributed for literally decades, and my knife books have been for sale since then too.)

I added in that discussion that the  spread of education was a good thing, and I only partook in the process. Seriously, I frequently read as new, many old catchy terms/ideas/expressions I published and advertised decades ago.” )

My really big mistake in the knife world, training business is…I think, not emphasizing the knife training business only. Alone. My obsession was/is with covering the bigger picture. Hand, stick, knife, gun. That’s “where it’s at” for me (is that phrase too 90s? Yikes, maybe too beatnik 60s?).  The 1990s evolved into the 2000s and my step-by-step into what I really wanted to do all along since the 90s. My goal is to create the best hand, stick, knife and gun courses. It’s a mixed weapon world. Each subject I have is a carefully constructed 4-pillar, foundation. But I think when you shoot for this holistic picture, each separate pillar seems to get a little lost, a little less appreciated, a little less noticed. It also makes me appear to be less specialized. This ain’t true. There’s a big mixed weapon matrix:

back to the knife! Inside a comprehensive knife course is:

*Knife vs hand (NOT empty hand vs knife! That’s unarmed combatives and belongs “over there.”

*Knife vs stick

*Knife vs knife

*Knife vs some gun threats

*Standing, kneeling, sitting and on the ground.

*Saber and reverse grip experimentation. (BOTH! You knuckleheads!)

*Skill developing exercises (shhhh…drills!)

*Knife combat scenarios and situations

*Legal issues and smarts

*Criminal history knife stories

*War history knife stories

(I do get a kick out of the occasional lame-brain who pipes up and says, “Knife training? Just stick the pointy end in the other guy.” Especially when they spend about ten thousand $$$ a year – plus – shooting at gun ranges. Why not just stick the pointy end of the bullet in the other guy, too, Brainiac?)

But, not focusing just on the knife is a problem. I don’t advertise or highlight “just the knife” like other courses do. This is one point where I have fallen down. Why my knife course has fallen down.

No Flags. Oh, and I have no crutch system, no flag to fly, like Pekiti, JKD, Brazil-Mania, Krav.  Silat.  Arnis. Just little ol’ me flapping in the wind. I can’t draw in extraneous-system-people, and some of those are obligated to attend, even arm-twisted by “the system” they’re in. Brand names are…brand names.

No Mystique? Which leads me back to the first paragraph. We know the established advertising fact the “the grass is always greener on the other….” side of the street? Other country? The sewers of Spain. The temples of Thailand. The monasteries of China? The borders of Israel…the…and so on. Me? I’m just a bland guy with some info. I don’t even  have any tattoos!

Plus, I avoid and dodge macho, death messages and death images mystique.  And I am not in a “mafia.” I am life-long cop. I fight the Mafia. I am not in any “cartel,” or a “cult” etc. Look, I can make the distinction between something that is a little fun and ironic and something/someone that is sick and weird. It takes a little investigation too, to not jump to conclusions, but sick and weird is sick and weird.

Various other ultra-violent, whack-job messaging should be reserved as a primer mentality for very serious, military, combat groups. THEIR psychology. Their prep. Not cops and certainly not citizens. Mimicking them makes you look like a wannabe punk. Look at the lawsuits filed on cops and citizens. Go ahead, have a little death-engraved-logo on your cop gun and see what happens when you shoot someone. Have a patch or tattoo of a grim reaper with a knife, or a skull with a knife through it, and see what happens when you have to use a knife. We the police, the prosecutors search your history when you are in an assault, knifing or shooting.  Mature survival, enduring the end game – as in the legal aftermath, is a big part of a well-thought-out, course. (Mature gun easily people understand this.) 

And the serious military angle? Even with them, take a look at the most sophisticated, revered, respected, top-flight, Special Forces vets and they play it cool like a gray man. Not like this silly fucker in New York for example – I read one New York City, very popular, international knife group headline paragraph:

“I love it when I carve someone’s balls off and put them in his empty eye sockets.” 

Shit man, you work in a fucking supermarket. And you think and talk like this? You need to be on watch list. These idiots give us all a bad name. But images and expressions like this, or near like this, this mystique, does attract a certain customer, usually young, or young in the brains anyway. Grow the fuck up. 

Lackadaisical about making rank and instructors. I don’t really run the classic franchise business as seen in self defense and Krav, other combatives courses, and Lord knows, classic martial arts. I am often lackadaisical about promoting people and making instructors. Other systems do this like precision clockwork, where I fail to emphasize this. It does hurt the proverbial martial, business model. In the same vein, I shun all titles like guro, grandmaster, sensei, etc. “It’s just Hock,” I say, which does not fly well with some organizations who base themselves on this structure. It’s almost like I am insulting them? I’m not trying to. You do whatever you need to do to survive.

After the fall. However boring, I still do see  some “knife people” all around the world.  There are “normal” people, martial artists, historians, survivalists and hobbyists, gun people out there, interested in generic, evolved, knife material. There are.  And that is who I mostly see when the knife topic comes around. Since I disdain the crazies and the fringers, they usually avoid me too.  I always do a few hours of knife in every seminar and I do have the occasional knife weekend seminars when and where I realize I need to catch up with people’s requests. And, normal people can always, sort of, hide their knife interests inside a classic martial arts name. To me the knife is inside of, part and parcel of, hand, stick, knife, gun crime and war, survival education.

Boring. No mystique. Not isolating the knife enough. Not promoting people fast enough. No skulls. No flags. No carved out-balls. Here is where I have shot myself in the…well, stabbed myself in the foot, in the knife training business, even though just a few of us are those innovator pioneers and turned the tide in the 1990s into what it all has become today. For better or for worse. Maybe you young fellers will learn from my mistakes?

Don’t get me started on the history of my hand, the stick or the simulated-ammo, gun courses. But, before you young knife guys make any sarcastic jokes about me (and Kelly and Bram, et al?) Keep in mind…I might just  be your grandfather.


Hock’s email is

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